Page 39 of Scary Hot

“I’m on it, Ma,” I drawl. “Love you. And tell Pop I said hi.”

“Will do, baby boy. Love you. Talk to you later,” she replies, and we hang up.

I stand, taking Kayan’s empty bowl and glass as I hand her back her cell. I dump the rinds in the trashcan, rinse the dishes and set them to the side of the sink, knowing she’ll just want to reuse them in an hour or so, when the craving strikes again. I’ve lost count of how many bags of Cuties we’ve gone through. But she swears three tiny mandarins are what baby wants, not one big navel orange.

But whatever. What my kitten wants, my kitten gets.

I go over to the couch and hold out my hand to her, and she glances at it then up to my eyes. “Where we going? I just got comfy,” she says, lifting her hand to pet LeFou.

“Just trust me on this one,” I tell her, and she groans but holds onto the tiny dog before allowing me to help her up from her sprawled position on the couch. I take him from her, and she disappears into the bedroom to grab some shoes.

I put him in his crate, pausing to pat him on his little head. The little guy has grown on me. Hard not to like him when he listens to my every command and obviously seeks my approval, his entire body trembling as he tiptoes toward me when Kayan and I are relaxing. He’ll look up at me with those watery bug-eyes, and I can just hear in his doggie voice, “Please let me love you. Pick me up, Dad. I just want to snuggle.” In my head, he speaks in a weird accent, Spanish and French mixed together.

Kayan knew what she was doing when she started in with all the baby talk. “LeFou wants hims daddy to hold him. Hold me, Daddy. I just want to lick every inch of your exposed skin. Don’t make it weird. Just let it happen.”

When I look up from my kneeling position by the crate, I see Kayan grinning at me. “What?” I prompt.

She puts her hands behind her head and starts circling her hips, singing “Big guy with a little dog. Big guy with a little dooooog.” She sings it to match the way Chris Farley does in Tommy Boy, when he croons, “Fat guy in a little coat,” and I can’t help but chuckle. God, I love this woman more than anything.

I stand up and open the front door, swatting at her hand when she reaches for her purse hanging on one of the hooks I installed on the wall. I grab my bike keys, and hear her usual hesitation. “You sure it’s a good idea—”

“How many times I gotta tell you, babe? Ain’t no way I’d let anything happen to you. Plus, we’ll be on back roads, so we won’t have to worry about other vehicles either.”

She looks at me curiously. “Back roads? Where are you taking me? Are you finally over me making fun of how much you love LeFou? Are you going to bury me somewhere so you can have him all to yourself?” she teases.

I just roll my eyes, locking the door behind us and listening to her jokes as she follows me to my bike.

“You should get him some little doggy goggles and a scarf, and put a basket on the front of your bike for him to ride in,” she continues, swinging her leg over as she gets on behind me. “I’d say a side car, but he’s only four pounds. A basket on the front would be plenty. And I’ll even get you some pretty streamers to come out of your handlebars!”

That pulls me out of my nervous quiet, and I snort out a laugh before starting the bike, the engine roaring to life and making Kayan sigh in my ear as she wraps herself around my back. As weary as she was in the beginning, she loves to take rides now, even if she is a little hesitant about doing it pregnant. But she’s barely showing yet, and I’ve always been a safe rider. It’s why I got a Harley instead of a crotch rocket. I’m not about speed and splitting lanes. I just like to cruise.

We’re at the destination in half an hour, and as I hold the bike steady for Kayan to climb off first, she comes around to the front, looks behind her at the building, and then back at me, raising an eyebrow and one side of her top lip.

“Um, babe. I appreciate the thought, but bar food isn’t on my list of cravings. Plus, I thought you said I wasn’t allowed to come back here ever again,” she says, and I chuckle, getting off the bike and immediately towering over her. “Also, I think they’re closed. Or they’re just really, really dead.” She glances around at the empty parking lot.